This is the second Pause for Thought in my current series, broadcast yesterday morning on BBC Radio 2
Courage is a positive quality, but it might sometimes require judicious application. I remember at school seeing a friend being bullied by an older child. “Pick on someone your own size,” I blurted out. The bully looked at me, marginally bigger than my friend. “Fair enough”, he said with a smile and proceeded to turn his pugnacious attentions towards me.
A little painful but looking back I don’t regret it. Courage means standing up for what we believe to be right, even in the face of difficult consequences. I might have ignored the age old military wisdom to not challenge a superior foe, but I don’t think I was wrong to take a stand. I just needed reinforcements.
Since then I have had to take many more stands. Not of a physical nature thankfully, but I have often been called on to dig deep inside myself and find moral courage to make the choices I believed were right. As a young man I became a Hare Krishna monk, forswearing the lifestyle choices of all my peers, my family members and indeed myself up until that point. It was a radical step. Taking vows to give up intoxication, illicit sex, gambling and eating meat tends to separate you from the crowd a bit.
And over the years it has led to quite a few more assaults from bullies. Not of the school playground variety though. This has been an inner fight, about being true to myself. That has been the real challenge demanding my courage; having the strength to say no to my pugnacious mind and senses which constantly try to drag me away from the spiritual path. But I’ve been that way before and I know it is a dead end.
I believe real happiness comes when I take the harder choice and follow the guidance of God. That pleases him and when he is satisfied he showers blessings and we experience a sense of inner fulfillment. The flickering enjoyment of bodily indulgence can’t compare to that, in my experience. And even when we lose a battle, as we sometimes will, merely the attempt to fight the good fight pleases God and he reciprocates from within us. So I shall keep praying for the moral courage to make the right choices. I’ve had quite enough of being bullied by my insatiable senses.
Click here to download a diagramatic presentation of some highly effective discussion methods, as well as quotes from Srila Prabhupada regarding the value of such discussions:
I have just started another series of Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2. The first was on the theme of Light.
I am a bit of a light fiend myself, always leaving them on all over the house, much to the annoyance of my cost conscious wife. We’re not made of money, she reminds me, as I sit bathed in the glow of every bulb in the room.
She’s right of course, as always, we shouldn’t waste energy, but we do need light. We can’t do much in pitch black darkness, except maybe sleep or grope around for a torch. Darkness is not particularly pleasant, invoking fear in many of us as we don’t know what might be about to spring out of the gloom and suddenly assail us. Really it is a state of ignorance and in fact the Bhagavad-gita in its first instruction exhorts us to come out of the darkness and into the light, out of the cloud of unknowing and into the effulgence of pure knowledge.
Being in darkness means suffering. Stumbling around sightless we are likely to hit hard obstacles, and that hurts. It is the same as ignorance. Not being able to see what to do and what not to do, what is right and what is wrong, we are likely to act foolishly and experience painful results. We may think that a surfeit of sensual pleasures will lead to happiness, but we soon discover that there is a hard price to pay, on our bodies, our minds, on others and on our environment.
Therefore God instructs us to seek the light of divine knowledge, of knowing him and the path to pain free pleasure he wants us to enjoy. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says, “God is light, ignorance is darkness, where there is one there cannot be the other.”
Basking in the brilliant light of spiritual truth we become free of all suffering. We see the obstacles to our real happiness, recognise who we truly are and where we belong. We want knowledge, to know what is going on and what is what. News and information channels flood the media these days to satisfy that desire. But ultimately we need the illumination of complete knowledge, of spiritual enlightenment, a state of total awareness that reveals everything we seek but struggle to find in a world of darkness.
So let’s try to leave the lamp of Divine guidance always burning. I know my wife won’t mind that.